Gum Line Treatment: What Is Gum Contouring and Why Is It Done?


Everyone’s gum lines are different. Some are high, some are low, some are in between. Some may even be uneven.

If you feel self-conscious about your gum line, there are ways to change it. Gum contouring, also known as gingival sculpting or gingivoplasty, is one of the options that can help reshape your gum line. In some cases, your dentist may even suggest it, especially if you have issues with your gums that affect your oral health. But, what exactly does it involve?

Let’s shed some light on what gum contouring is, how and when it’s done, and what the recovery is like.


What is Gum Contouring?

Gum contouring is a procedure, done by a dental specialist, that reshapes or resculpts your gum line. The process of gum contouring involves cutting away or removing excess gum tissue around your teeth. If you have gum recession, the procedure involves restoring gum tissue.

In many cases, gum contouring is an elective procedure. This means that it isn’t medically necessary. Instead, it’s done to improve the look of the gums, teeth, or smile. But there may be times when your dentist recommends gum contouring for oral health reasons.


Gums that cover a large portion of the teeth, often a result of genetics, may result in a smile that looks unbalanced. Gum contouring reshapes the surrounding tissue, which can cause an uneven or “gummy” smile.

This condition may also be a side effect of certain prescription drugs or inflamed gum tissue. Patients are more susceptible to infection, which could lead to gingivitis or tooth loss. As such, gum contouring may be essential to your oral health, beyond the cosmetic factors.


From an Aesthetic Perspective

Visually, the procedure helps lengthen and expose crowns to create a brighter, more even smile that reveals all teeth and removes the large strip of gum tissue across the top.

However, not all patients have an even amount of excess tissue obscuring their teeth. As a result, the gum line is uneven, with more tissue present in certain areas. Gum contouring helps shape the spots where tissue extends lower than others, resulting in a straighter, more symmetrical smile.

In other instances, gum contouring can also address a gum line that’s too high due to gum recession. The tissue pulls back, exposing the tooth’s roots and making your teeth look too long. This condition also hastens the effects of tooth decay, could be a sign of periodontal disease or bone degeneration.

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Health Benefits

Beyond the aesthetic aspect, having too much gum tissue is a health concern for certain patients. Excess tissue can trap food particles, which are difficult to remove via brushing and flossing, and may accelerate tooth decay. Patients living with this condition often report regular gum irritation, are more susceptible to periodontal disease or gingivitis.

Due to these factors, a dentist may recommend gum reshaping before a crown lengthening, pocket reduction or another regenerative procedure. Long term, trimming back the gum line lessens the occurrence of tooth decay and periodontal issues, better preserves existing teeth and helps your teeth stay healthier, longer.


When is Gum Contouring Medically Necessary?

Many times, gum contouring is done for cosmetic purposes. But there are times when it may be a medical necessity.

If you have periodontal disease, gum contouring may be a treatment option. But your dentist will first try to treat the gum disease with nonsurgical options. This may include antibiotics to kill the bacteria and infection, or dental cleanings to restore gum health.

If these efforts don’t work, your dentist may recommend a treatment such as pocket reduction surgery on the gums and surrounding bone to save a tooth. Or you may need a regeneration procedure to regrow damaged bone and gum tissue.

Gum contouring might be part of these procedures. And if so, dental insurance may cover the cost, or part of it, if it’s deemed a medical necessity. You’ll need to speak with your dental insurance provider to find out what’s covered and if there are out-of-pocket expenses.


The Process of Gum Contouring 

  • Gum contouring is usually done by a cosmetic dentist or periodontist. It’s an in-office procedure that’s typically done in one visit.
  • In most cases, you’ll remain awake during the procedure. Before your dentist begins, you’ll receive local anesthesia to numb the gum area.
  • During the procedure, your dentist will use a soft tissue laser or scalpel to remove excess gum tissue and resculpt the gum line to expose more of the tooth. Sutures may be used to hold the gum tissue in place.
  • If your gums recede and the procedure involves adding gum tissue, your dentist will remove tissue from another part of your mouth, maybe your palate. Surgery secures this tissue around your teeth to lengthen and restructure your gum line.
  • The length of the procedure will vary depending on the extent of the contouring and the amount of resculpting that’s needed. Generally, gum contouring takes about 1 to 2 hours.
  • Unlike other cosmetic dental procedures, gum contouring often involves a single visit with a relatively short recovery time. It’s important to note that gum contouring is permanent, as tissue does not regrow.


Is Gum Contouring Painful?

You’ll be given local anesthesia before the procedure starts. This will numb your gums so you won’t feel pain while your dentist is working on your mouth. But you can expect some tenderness and numbness afterward. The amount of discomfort depends on how much of your gums had to be reshaped or removed.

After the surgery, your dentist may prescribe a pain reliever, or you can take over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). Please note, since aspirin can cause bleeding, your doctor might discourage this medication.

You can also reduce pain and swelling by applying an ice pack or cold compress to your mouth for a couple of days after the procedure. It’s best to apply the compress for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.



How Long is Recovery?

Gum contouring involves little downtime, but complete healing might take days or weeks, depending on the extent of the surgery. You may have to limit some activities for a day or two based on how you feel and any tenderness you may have.

Since your gums and mouth will likely feel sensitive or tender at first, you’ll want to eat soft foods for about 2 to 3 days after the procedure. This might include foods such as:

  • soup
  • yogurt
  • applesauce
  • Jell-O

Your dentist will provide post-surgery dietary instructions and will also let you know if there are any foods to avoid while you’re recovering.

You’ll typically have a follow-up appointment a few days or a week after the procedure. Your dentist will check your gums to monitor how you’re healing and look for signs of an infection. An antibiotic mouth rinse may be prescribed to reduce the risk of infection. Signs of infection include increased pain and swelling and discharge from the gums.

How Much Does it Cost?

Gum contouring is often done for cosmetic reasons, which makes it an elective procedure — meaning it isn’t medically necessary. For this reason, dental insurance typically doesn’t cover the cost. If not medically necessary, you’ll pay for the procedure out of pocket. The cost will vary depending on the amount of gum tissue removed or restored, and whether a specialist performs the procedure.

Costs range from $50 to $350 for one tooth or up to $3,000 for all of your front top teeth.

If your dentist recommends gum contouring for oral health reasons, dental insurance may cover part of the cost. You’ll want to talk to your dental insurance provider for details about how much is covered.


Let’s Recap … The Bottom Line

Gum contouring, also known as gingival sculpting, is a process that involves reshaping the gum line. It’s often used to improve the look of the gums, teeth, or smile. It’s considered a cosmetic procedure when it’s done for this reason.

There are instances, though, when gum contouring or reshaping is necessary for oral health reasons, especially if you have periodontal disease.

The procedure is typically an in-office procedure and takes about 1 to 2 hours. The cost can vary depending on how much gum reshaping is needed and whether it’s covered by dental insurance.

To find out if you are a candidate for gum contouring, schedule your Smile Consultation by calling 816-373-4440.


We Love to Improve the Smiles of Our Patients

We love to improve the smiles of our patients – because we love to see them smile! From dental exams to complete smile makeovers that include various restorative and cosmetic dentistry options – the professional team at the offices of Thomas L. Anderson, DDS and Associates are constantly fine-tuning their craft through the art and science of dentistry to deliver the results their patients want.

Schedule your appointment to meet with any of our skilled dentists at one of our three conveniently located dental office locations within the Kansas City area, including Lee’s Summit / Independence, the Country Club Plaza and Downtown Kansas City. The gentle dentists and expert team at Thomas L. Anderson and Associates look forward to working with you to treat your dental emergency, achieve proper oral health and a beautiful smile that will last a lifetime. If you have any questions about your dental insurance benefits, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We are happy to review your policy! Please give us a call today to schedule an appointment and become part of our dental family.